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Showing posts from October, 2010

Fall Four and Other Notes

Tonight at Woodbine, the elims for the Fall Four continue. Last night the Goldsmith Maid elims were contested and Crys Dream, by far the best filly trotter in racing, won easily. This evening the racing continues with elims for the Governor's Cup and Valley Victory are slated to go. If you have not signed up to's weekend preview, you can, and get the dowloadable trackmaster pp's for these races and more.

One thing that slots have brought us are lotsa stakes races. It seems the stakes scene (not unlike in the runners) is very watered down. I don't know if it is simulcasting or what, but it seems we can see the same horses race for big money week in and week out nowadays. With the two year olds especially it takes both a unique horse and a unique trainer to keep them going with all this big money available. Two year olds are asked for wicked speed now and they are not lasting. Horses like Rock n Roll Heaven and before him Somebeachsomewhere are true fre…


Two of marketer Seth Godin's books - Tribes and Purple Cow - are important works on understanding today's world. In Purple Cow, he writes a thesis about doing one thing well, and being remarkable as it can build a brand or a business. In Tribes, he relays the fact that anyone or anything can lead a tribe, and the spin-offs of such a movement can grow to build a brand, event or idea.

I was struck this week with the election of Mayor in the city of Toronto. Early on, the winner - Rob Ford - was chastised by many for not being broad enough or having all the 'big ideas'. The press seemed to dismiss him as he stuck to his one message over and over again - taxpayer respect. But over time this one simple message (while the other candidates tried to be everything to everyone with myriad ideas) stuck. His followers trumpeted that one simple message on twitter, facebook, to the print and electronic press - to whomever would listen. He won the Mayoral race in a shock…

Knock Down Drag Out

Recently I spoke with a marketing colleague about controversy and promotion. It was nothing new; just a regular chat about how some brands, artists, acts and so on can win with a carefully marketed controversial campaign.

It struck me that one thing horse racing (not on chat boards, but at high levels) seems to possess is any true controversy. The trade press is particularly non-confrontational, especially with breeders, for example. However, of late, there has been some fun, exciting, back and forth in the sport.

The "Racy Ad" was a more than interesting read. Ray Paulick responded to a couple of bloggers who took exception to the Churchill Downs' ad featuring a dude with a pair of bincoulars having a look-see at some good looking women racetrackers. In his first salvo, he told two of the people whom were offended by the ad to "get a room". That spawned 44 comments. A couple of days later, he was back with more. Andy Beyer took a slight shot at Zenyatta recently…

Love, Passion and Remembering

Sometimes we lose sight of the equine athletes that compete for our pleasure - monetary and otherwise. However, the sad story of the Grey makes us all pause and remember that we are dealing with living, breathing animals, that capture our hearts and minds.

The accolades and condoldences are pouring in for the Grey Gladiator, who at the age of 14 unexpectedly had to be put down after a paddock accident. After romping around enjoying himself, he came back to the paddock and was soonafter gone. This is a sad story, especially when you consider he was enjoying his new life under saddle and promoting horse retirement as an equine ambassador to everyone outside the sport. He even won a competition last month. He was enjoying his well-deserved retirement after over 350 hard fought races in his career.

So far, 46 comments have been tallied on the SC piece; some of them from movers and shakers in the sport with the rest from other trainers, grooms and fans. A few genuinely caught my eye and my …

Admirals Express Euthanized

It was announced today that the Grey Gladiator had to be put down. A true throw-back racehorse, the Admiral met the best FFA'ers around and raced year after year at the highest levels. He compiled an incredible record, which other modern racehorses can only stand in awe of. He raced 353 career times, and compiled a record of 86 wins, 53 second-place finishes and 44 thirds. This was good for over $2.1M.

He once held the record for most sub-1:50 miles and he won at 150 or below from ages five through 10. At age 13 he was still going strong, although he understandably lost a step.

In an era where horses do not last he was truly an anachronism. At four he raced (and beat) horses like Dragon Again in a FFA stake. Five years later he was beating Dragon Again's offspring in those same type races.

For old time horsemen and old time fans he reminded them of Governor Skipper, or Bret Hanover or Most Happy Fella - true tough-as-nails standardbreds who would run through a wall for you, the…

Getting Ahead of the Train

I watched today's news story about New Jersey racing whereby the Governor of the state wants no tax money to support racing. As much as we may want to, it is difficult to not agree with much of his logic. Casino money has been used as a golden goose for a long time. Places that had it could; because they were one of the few jurisdictions that had gaming.

But not any longer. Virtually every state, unable or unwilling to make fiscal decisions, wants more money. And to get it, they have passed some sort of gaming.

In neighboring New York state, arguably the worst run state in the union, slots are coming to the Big A. This should bring in piles of money and help the horse population in that state. As we have seen with Yonkers and Chester's decimation of the Meadowlands, Acqueduct will surely lay claim to Monmouth and other nearby non-slots tracks. No matter what Jersey does, they are sure to be toasted.

So the Governor seems to be doing the only sane thing - asking for racing to stan…

Tee-Ohh Tuesday

The Zenyatta phenomenon is continually fun to watch. A good deal of times in racing the promo is forced. This can and does work for many companies and personalities but often times it fizzles out. With Zenyatta it does not; it just keeps on coming. Terrell Owens of the Bengals is apparently a fan, so as a fan (with a little more pull than you or I) he got to visit the big mare. 

"She is huge" he said.

Trainer John Shirreffs signed an autograph for Owens, which in itself is the opposite of what we'd expect. If I was Shirreffs I would probably be a little worried this morning. After speaking with Owens there is a chance that the big mare might wake up, demand a new stall, better feed and want the ball more.

I watched Bet Night Live last night for the Woodbine races. The crew there seems to be finding their way. As well, the Central Ontario Standardbred Association donated $500 to each show, so two newbies can make $250 bets on select races. Last night both of them won! It…

Big Races & Big Anticipation

Yesterday at the Red Mile there were a few big tilts.

Wishing Stone won the Futurity in straight heats. This colt was my Hambo bet this year, looking for a score. Why do most of my picks win like 4 months after I bet them? I know, I know, it happens to all of us. :) Seriously, this is a really nice horse. Lucky Chucky is severely talented, but the sound grinders like this guy tend to get good late. He should have a nice 4YO year, in my opinion.

One More Laugh got the job done in his 3YO pacing division, as did Rock n' Roll Heaven. Twice now Rock n' Roll has tried for a track record. You can only go to the well so often with a horse and I hope that is the last time we see that. We have seen his bottom now so there is no need to put on a show.

Secretariat the movie is gaining some steam. I see it had a really nice hold, as good movies tend to have. It seems it is well on its way to becoming a late release success.

Zenyatta talk is dominating the airwaves and chat boards and pres…

Secretariat - Maybe Not 100% Accurate, But Thank God it Isn't

It has been fun reading a lot of the chatter on chat boards, blogs and industry sites on the movie Secretariat. As usual, we as insiders will have our gripes; after all, some people going to the movie remember where they went for breakfast the morning of the Belmont, and have memorized the morning lines. None of these type movies are for "us", they are made to sell tickets because people who make them want money. In Days of Thunder when Tom Cruise lapped the field in the last lap to win a big race, NASCAR fans cringed, and we will too, no doubt with this movie.

One thing that strikes me with horse racing movies is that it is almost impossible to tell a true story without jazzing it up. Thoroughbred yearling buyers and owners are for the most part loaded (although if you hear some owners speak, it is like they are all destitute and ready to rob a 7-11 to feed the kids) and it does not exactly make for a good underdog story.

Really, what kind of stories do we have in thoroughbre…

A Nice Breeders Crown Evening

Last night's Breeders Crown at Pocono might have not set the handle world on fire, but for a first try at a new (lesser-known) venue, the event from a fan point of view was certainly a success. There were several marvelous performances, and some curious ones that stand out and make us take notice.
Rock n Roll Heaven is the best horse in harness racing. He might be as talented as last year's good one Well Said, and maybe even as, or more talented than his dad. He has guts, determination, soundness and good speed. He is a joy to watch.Big Jim might travel a little funny, might not look like a smooth machine out there but he has "it".See You at Peelers is a really nice filly. It will be very interesting to see her next year.A few items from last night that crossed my mind.....

The 3 year old crop is not one of the best ever, it is totally average. That glamour boy final last night was about as deep and competitive as a Washington Generals basketball game. After I watched …

It's Back!!

What has become my fave thoroughbred meet - Keeneland - opens in a half hour.

In thoroughbred racing (and harness) we have seen smaller and smaller fields and smaller and smaller pools. It is very difficult to get excited with some of these racetracks. At Keeneland, however, the fields are huge and so are the pools. In addition, the takeout rate, with 16% WPS and 19% all exotics, is the best in North America.

I should not do this, but..... time to take the afternoon off work!

Good luck if you're playing.

Breeders Crown Contest & Bill Finley

This weekends Crown is on tap at Pocono as you know and there is a very good handicapping contest offered by SC. Three winners will find their way to Georgian Downs for the National Championship, with a chance at $25,000. You can sign up and make your picks at the link. Also, here is a free program link for the weekend card.

Second up, Bill Finley the long-time writer and racing fan has started a brand new harness newsletter that you may be interested in. And it's free. Some of the writers assembled include Andrew Cohen and Bob Heyden.

Another reminder, has its weekly letter as well, and it includes updates on all the weekend's major races. It is also gratis.

I remember about five years ago having a discussion on takeout and hearing 'you will never see anyone offer what you think they should'. Five years later, Hialeah (previously the poster track for high takeout) has gone to 12% - across the board. I would not be shocked to see other Florida tracks …

Breeders Crown - Working the Bet. Low Take, Seeded Pick 4's and 6's This Weekend

This weekend harness racing puts on its yearly show at Pocono Downs. The year end championships are always interesting to watch for fans and bettors as well. In the past the races have garnered significant handle, however for the first 15 years or so in the series, the bet has been almost an afterthought. As with many tracks and organizations today, working the bet has finally been placed on the front-burner. Customers matter.

One organization that has been much more proactive than most to up the bet and build the brand has been the Hambletonian Society. This group, who runs both the Crown and the Hambo, have tried things many other tracks and groups have failed to. For example, they were behind the "Metro Six Shooter" earlier this season which generated some buzz, and did work to promote a decent sized pool.

Not long ago the group asked "what kind of bet can we offer, and how should we go about it" to several bettors. The feedback was pretty good. Most of the ideas…

I Went to a Hockey Game & A Horse Race Broke Out

I found some funny chatter happening on this past weekend's Zenyatta race.

From "Greyhorse" on

"From the quarter pole on, all I heard was the crowd's screaming!

It was the largest crowd I've ever seen at Hollywood, and the largest I'll ever see.......Some woman tried elbowing me out of my spot on the rail when the race started. You can believe I fought back! Mosh pit!"

Great freaking stuff. (full post of hers here Note - I just heard you have to sign up to see that post, but it is worth it. It is a good board for fans with very little chat-board trolling/fighting)

Here is a slice of the day courtesy Oak Tree Racing. Who says horse racing ain't fun for the masses?

Monday Thoughts

I have been pretty busy of late with work and other things, and I could barely get caught up on the Monday headlines until now (and I am really not even caught up yet), but a few things caught my eye.

..... I have been reading the Zenyatta headlines and I marvel at how much action there is on this mare. She was a hot google search on the weekend and she is sure to make this year's Breeders Cup the most watched ever. I notice Ed talking about a new video produced by the Breeder Cup to promote the event. Get ready for much more of this the coming 34 days.

In our sport, the Crown looks to be a dandy event. The elims were not overly entertaining, I thought, but they never really are. However, I can honestly say I have never seen a horse do what Not Enough did on Saturday. She was rank, see-sawed, the plugs were out before the quarter..... a sure recipe for a 6th by 14. But somehow she won. For video it is here.

There is a handicapping contest for the Finals. You have three chances to g…

Huge Weekend of Racing

Sorry for being delinquent (and short in this post) - I have been busy this weekend. I barely got to see any of the races live, but here is a catch-up.

Last night two statements were made in harness racing, by the two top colts, Rock n Roll Heaven and One More Laugh. The former made a much more significant one, however. That was impressive! Full results for the BC elims for night two are here.

Another one (or two I guess) of Zenyatta's main rivals raced yesterday in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and like so many others this year, failed to perform. The very nice Blame, and the new Dutrow barn pupil Rail Trip both failed to run their best; or maybe they did, depending on how you look at it.

Meanwhile, Zenyatta won again. Ho hum, another routine grade 1, where she was trading a whopping 1.14 at Betfair (no those are not souvenir tickets knocking her down, it's big bettors too). Why is she the only horse on earth that seems to not throw a clunker? I have no idea how she does it, but she…

Breeders Crown Elimination Night One in the Books

Last evening some of the Breeders Crown elims at Pocono Downs were completed. Tonight there is another set.

A few thoughts while in between some work and play today:

Big Jim is one talented racehorse. He was crooked, running out, and parked virtually the first three quarters. He throws a 27 and change in the third panel and still almost holds on. Is the horse hurting a little, or is it equipment? I have no idea, but he is one fast horse.

Pretty Catharine, the ML fave and good Coleman trainee was "late for retention" and scratched. Wow!

Dejarmbro in the 2YO colt trot looks like the real deal. He got tested last time and torched through a quick three quarters. Often times this results in a trotter coming back a little bit off (which for a trotter means a alot off!), but not him. He scorched a quick first quarter, but the sharp and underrated Jeff Gregory drove him like he owned him from there and gave him a nice trip.

Speaking of driving them like you own them, how many horses wer…